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Rapid Ethnographic Assessment of Pandemic Restrictions in Child Welfare: Lessons from Parent and Provider Experiences

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This paper analyzes policy and practice changes implemented by the child welfare system in Miami-Dade County in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Rapid ethnographic assessment (REA) was used to capture multiple perspectives during a rapidly unfolding pandemic. We identified system vulnerabilities and opportunities for lessening the impact of crises on vulnerable families with children in foster care. The assessment highlights how system fragmentation complicates effective responses to public health emergencies, while the transition to remote services provides insight into ways that traditional accessibility barriers may be alleviated beyond the pandemic. We provide recommendations for improving family experiences and preparing for future crises, envisioning ways that peer specialists, in particular, may offer a model for enhanced family support. This study emphasizes the unique benefits of anthropological theory and applied methods in assessing and improving public sector systems.

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Human Organization, v. 79, issue 4, p. 304-312